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U is for...

... Underground



The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
---Edgar Allan Poe


The Rider

Nothing more morbid than talking about funerals, right?

So, let's talk about the "after funeral", you know, the part where you get lowered into a 4-ft deep hole, covered with dirt, and left for eternity (if underground burial is the route you wish to go and your city/town/state/country allows it). Assuming there isn't a dig-your-relative-up-after-60-years mandate, like there is in South Korea, or a grave re-use clause in your burial agreement, and assuming no future land developments disrupt the cemetery grounds centuries after the "cemetery" is forgotten, this will be the final resting place for your physical form until the Sun Supernovas and the universe starts over again.

Graveyards became established around the same time that physical buildings of worship were constructed--as early as the 8th century. They were most often used by those who could not afford to be interred inside the building via crypt or who were not of nobility or men/women of the cloth and could not be interred beneath the holy building itself. Graveyards essentially became the place where the rest of society found eternal rest----

The original grave depth--that gave us the oft-cliched notion of being 6-feet under-- dates back to a time when coffins/caskets were not enclosed in protective structures, the way they can be now. It's quite common for vaults of concrete to line modern grave cuts, making the now 4-foot cut an acceptable depth---not deep enough to cause a sink-hole, but deep enough not to flood and sturdy enough for a car to drive over (not that I like the idea of cars driving over the spot where I'm sleeping, but it is reassuring to know they won't drop in unannounced).

There are several different ways for you to spend your eternal rest. Most modern burials, the deceased is supine (on their back) as opposed to prone (face-down). Some cultures deem the prone position as a mark of disrespect. Other cultures bury their warriors/soldiers in a crouched or feet downward position, so they are always ready for battle, even in the hereafter. Then there is the feet upward position, reserved for suicides or assassins---not a comfortable position to hold while living, the upside down stance symbolically denoted their suicide/assassin status and was meant to prevent any activity from these souls after death...you know, since they would probably take nightly walks if they were left in an upright position.

Safety Coffin with Bell attached
Speaking of activity after death----one of the most frightening things, I think, has always been the possibility of mistaken live burials. When I first learned it had one time been a fear of folks that they would be prematurely pronounced dead and subsequently buried alive, I've always thought it might be better to hang around in state for awhile---just to make sure I didn't wake up. I blame my childhood reading of Poe's "The Premature Burial" for this and would probably put it in my will that I must lay a week in state and be buried with a bell-cord tied around my wrist (I am fully aware that the embalming process totally negates all this as I would be pretty dead after that, but hey, an irrational fear is irrational).


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